Mrs Ring remembers being bombed out of her house 117 Hawthorn Road Strood on 19th Feb 1944. She was aged 3. On 12th March that year the family moved into The Museum Cottage and became caretakers of the museum. At first, Mr Bushell worked part time as he had a job in Strood at the Oil and Cake works. He was made redundant from the works in 1948 and took on the caretaking job full time.
Mrs Bushell and her mother worked in the museum every morning dusting and polishing everything. The museum closed at the beginning of the war so when they took over there was four years of accumulated dirt and grime.
It was a strict rule that the electrical supply was turned off at the mains when no one was in the museum.
The Curators office was at the back of the building beside the main staircase with doors leading to the staircase and the corridor to the annex.
The museum opened every day between 2pm and 5.30pm. Many clubs and societies used the museum room in the evening. The stamp collectors. Coin collectors. Natural History Society. Dickens Society.
The Exhibits. The ground floor room to the left of the entrance hall held a collection of small and model boats. The Entrance hall contained the imitation royal regalia. This was occasionally used in special pageants. There were also glass cases containing a display of watches. Jade and other small valuable objects. These were placed in the office safe overnight.
To the right of the entrance hall at the bottom of the spiral staircase was the Dickens room.
In the alcove beside the main staircase was a large fire pump.
The main room on the first floor was the Tudor room with a large table laid out for a Tudor feast. There were a number of chairs round the table.
To the right of the Tudor room was the armoury containing one very large gun.
The other big room on the first floor had a penny farthing and other ornaments. There was also an organ at the top of the stairs.
The second floor had an office for the secretary and some displays. The attics were not used.
The corridor leading to the annex had a display of fossils and Rock samples. One of the rooms in the annex continued the fossil collection housing a mammoth tusk.
In the annex was a room displaying a large taxidermy exhibit of lots of different birds.
It also contained the museum room where most of the societies met. This room was also used during the day by the Maths school for music lessons.
There was also a toy room containing a large dolls house and a small sweet shop display.
On special occasions or for special people the dungeon was opened. This was accessed through the curators office. It contained some stocks other medieval torture instruments will a cell with a dummy asleep with a rat running over him.
There was a museum society for secondary aged children. Eileen was often allowed to join in. It was made up mainly of pupils from the Maths School and the Rochester Girls Grammar. They had magic lantern shows, lectures, external visits. I was invited to the Christmas party each year.
I remember that David Frost was a regular visitor walking across from Gillingham. He used to talk to my dad. My dad said that one day that boy will go far. I also remember a visit by Winston Churchill.
On another occasion a viking boat came up the Medway, docked somewhere in Chatham or Rochester and dressed up vikings processed to the museum and came in, I was placed on the bench in the porch to watch them.
At Christmas the Dickens Society would dress up and sing carols at the iron gate into the high street. Complete with lanterns etc.
Mr Bolton was the first curator after the war, a real old school gentleman wearing a bowler hat. Everything had to be just so. After Mr. Bolton was Mr Taylor. The museum was an extension of my home, I thought the Dolls House was mine.
In 1991 the Museum cottage became the tourist information office. The front garden that mum was so proud of was grassed over in the late 50’s. She was so proud of her garden.
My grandmother used to walk around the garden early every morning. One day she noticed the window to the office was open, just ajar. She looked in am saw someone asleep on the sofa. She came back to the cottage and told my mother who ran to the police station sited close to the castle. They came at once and on entering the office woke the burglar up and retrieved watches and other small items. My mother had to go to court.
I saw some pictures of workmen repairing the chimneys in the late sixties.
Mrs Ring has an old picture of the Museum cottage as it was when she lived in it. A picture of the museum society dressed up and a photo when the chalet was erected in the garden showing the mayor.
Mrs Eileen Ring's memories were supplemented by her husband Mr Brian Ring in an interview with Richard Moss, Friends of Eastgate House committee member.
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